By: Adnan Rehmat
If journalists in Pakistan and the media they work for are under attack, as the screaming statistics show, what would constitute a desired response mechanism that can combat this impunity meaningfully and effectively? What can help is a combination of individual responsibility on the part of media practitioners and media houses on the one hand and a determinedly collaborative approach on the other hand by key stakeholders ranging from the state to the civil society and an alliance between national and international communities.
The key to combating impunity against journalists in Pakistan is consensus and an action plan that identifies both principal stakeholders and their respective roles and responsibilities that can launch a series of actions that constitute both a pre-emptive regime and a reactive response. This consensus and a clearly defined roadmap have already emerged through two landmark initiatives in November 2012.
The first one was by the United Nations through their UNESCO office in Pakistan that held a national consultation that produced a declaration outlining recommendations on combating impunity from key stakeholders, including the state, parliament and media that was then taken to the second UN Inter-Agency Meeting on Impunity in Vienna the same month.
The second was at a national conference on developing a roadmap to combat impunity attended by key media representative associations including All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Pakistan News Agencies Council (PNAC), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation (APNEC), Pakistan Association of Independent Radio Stations (PAIRS), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and press clubs and regional union of journalists from Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Islamabad.
The UNESCO consultation declaration outlined recommendations that are likely to become part of the UN Action Plan for Pakistan on Impunity Against Journalists effective 2013. Among others, it seeks “firmer commitment from the Government of Pakistan towards the issue of impunity and security of journalists and for concrete and continuous actions towards developing enabling legal frameworks, reviewing and implementing existing laws, building more robust prosecuting mechanisms, and strengthening relevant national policies.” It also calls for “more effective, inclusive and coordinated initiatives by the UN System, including continuous monitoring and reporting of the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1738 on the safety of journalists in conflict and an end to impunity” as well as urges the “One UN in Pakistan …..to mainstream this issue into its developmental and humanitarian activities in 2013 to 2017.”
The conference, in a signed declaration, formally outlined a National Action Plan to Combat Impunity that puts an emphasis on a collaborative approach. This plan also offers a role model for implementation in the other four UN Plan of Action countries and found wide backing at the UN conference in Vienna. The outcomes of the national consultation offer the surest bet yet to effectively combat impunity and increase protections for Pakistani journalists.